Better planning

The end of the year is approaching quickly. The holidays are a time to connect with family and friends, remember the important things in life, and reflect on where I want to go.

Because of that, I’m spending this week thinking about how I want to accomplish my goals in the year ahead.

The purpose of this site is to help me become a better person by improving my beliefs and my behaviors. I spend a lot of time writing on the role of encouragement and mindset in making change. Today, I’m reflecting on the importance of planning.

“… I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ~Dwight Eisenhower

I was reading this article on the Behavior Change for Good initiative, led by Angela Duckworth and Katherine Milkman, at the University of Pennsylvania, earlier this week. Their research looks at decisions related to health and fitness, education, and personal finance–examining how to help people make better individual choices.

In healthcare, I think about these things frequently as an organizations. How can I help a customer choose short term discomfort in the service of a long-term, tough to measure, benefit?

The most effective solutions I’ve heard and seen are planning and accountability.

A good plan has 4 points:

  • A purpose and desired endstate
  • A short set of key tasks, with owners
  • A timeline of when those tasks will be accomplished
  • Alternatives to deal with the most likely problems

An effective accountability system includes 3 components:

  • Periodic reporting on how things are going
  • A responsible person to check-in on the process
  • Actions to take or conversations to have when the plan falls through.

And, for good measure, three bonus ideas: a saying, a season, and a signpost.

Change needs to start within ourselves. So, having a simple saying that connects to either the priority or the behaviors of what I want to accomplish really helps. It could be high-level (“Here at Mayo, the patients come first”) or clever (“Five mile Friday”). A memorable phrase that connects your goal to the precedence it has or to specific actions can serve as a great reminder to return to the path.

Change, by definition, is a departure from how things were before. Thinking in terms of seasons can make change feel natural, and less daunting. It reminds you that the discomfort of change is temporary, and that change contains both challenges and opportunities. It can help you appreciate the moment and do the work that is needed, knowing that the future will be different than today.

Our environments inevitably reflect our identity. By placing a signpost in my home or office to highlight the change I’m trying to make, I can remind myself of who I want to be, and what I’m working towards. I can nudge my mindset towards the actions I want to take.

These are simple principles, but easy to neglect. I’ll be including these in my resolutions this year, and I hope they help you in your planning as well.

In any event, stay encouraged, and have a great day!

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